Report urges action on rising sea levels

18th November 2009
Press Release

Report urges action on rising sea levels FRANK McDONALD, Environment Editor - The Irish Times - Wednesday, November 18, 2009

HOMES IN Dublin, Belfast, Cork and other coastal cities could become uninsurable unless measures are taken to protect vulnerable areas against storm surges and rising sea levels, according to a report published today. Noting that the Netherlands is spending €1.5 billion a year on adapting to climate change, the Irish Academy of Engineering - a cross-Border body - is urging the authorities North and South to "protect critical infrastructure".

In a report being released today, the academy warns that a sea level rise of half a metre (and experts say one metre is more likely by 2100), combined with storm surges, meant that a one-in-100-year flood could happen as often as once every five years.

It says changing rainfall patterns would affect water supplies while extreme weather events could damage energy installations, hospitals, telecommunications, railways and other critical infrastructure, as well as contaminating water supplies.

"Failure to act now will put our society at an unacceptable risk", said the academy's president Michael Hayden. "You've only to think of Hurricane Katrina for an example of how climate change coupled with poor planning and zoning decisions can lead to social and economic disaster."

The 40-page report, Ireland at Risk: Critical Infrastructure - Adaptation for Climate Change , involving over 60 researchers, engineers, scientists, policy experts and administrators from North and South, argues that adaptation to an uncertain future is now as urgent here as elsewhere.

To be launched today by Minister for the Environment John Gormley, it calls on the Government to assign clear responsibility for the protection of critical infrastructure - such as water and power supplies - to the Environmental Protection Agency.